Seven (Yes, 7) pit bulls escaped from their yard and attacked a female neighbor outside her home and another woman in the dog owner’s home off Windy Hill Road. The owner, of the 7 pit bulls had been cited six times between February 2018 and March of this year for the dogs roaming the neighborhood, injuring a chicken and biting another animal, according to citations and incident reports obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from Cobb County through an open records request.
Clearly, if the facts as reported by the AJC are true, the owner of the seven (Yes, 7) pit bulls is liable for all of the damage the pit bulls have caused in attacking the innocent neighbors. The first inquiry in a case like this is: did the owner know or have reason to know that the dogs were dangerous. In this case, the interesting reported fact is: Cobb County Animal Services Division Director Shana Luke said the agency had no reports of the dogs biting people before the incident. So, one of the interesting legal questions in this case is: Should the owner of the seven (Yes, 7) pit bulls have known that the dogs were dangerous since the owner had been cited numerous times for roaming the neighborhood, injuring a chicken and biting another animal, but not for biting a human being. The answer, in my opinion, is yes.
We at Katz Wright Fleming Dodson & Mildenhall have handled cases similar to this and recovered for our clients when the dog involved in the attack did not bite other people before but did have a history of vicious behavior toward other animals and a history of getting loose and causing problems in the neighborhood. Couple this with the clear violation of the local leash law (in this case Cobb County’s animal leash law) which states as follows:
(a) General control.
(1) It shall be unlawful for the owner of any animal to permit such animal to be out of his immediate control and restraint, or to be left unattended off the premises of the owner, or to be upon the property of another person without the permission of the owner or person in possession of such other property. For the purposes of this chapter, condominium and apartment common property shall not be considered to be the premises of the animal owner. Voice control does not constitute control of an animal.
(2) Restraint of dogs and/or animals shall be maintained as follows:
a. When upon the premises of the owner, all animals shall be kept indoors or in a primary enclosure as defined by this chapter in such a manner as to contain the animal within the bounds of the owner’s premises, or on a leash in the hands of a person that possesses the ability to restrain the animal.
b. When off the premises of the owner, all animals shall at a minimum be maintained on an appropriate chain, leash or tie not exceeding 6 feet in length, and in the hands of a person who possesses the ability to restrain the animal.
c. It shall be unlawful for any owner of a dog to chain, tie, fasten or otherwise tether the dog to a stationary object or pulley run as a means of confinement, except that the dog may be temporarily confined by a tether while attended by its owner, notwithstanding subsections (2)a. and (2)b. of this section.
(3) The requirements of subsection (2) of this section shall not apply in the areas zoned for agricultural purposes where the owner of the dog is using the dog for hunting or working purposes and has the dog in his possession or control. If the dog is being used for hunting purposes the owner shall have on his person a valid hunting license. Dogs, while hunting, or show dogs while being shown, are not required to wear a collar or dog tag; but the owner shall have the dog tag in his possession where it may be shown upon demand of a representative of CCAC.
(4) No person shall tie, stake or fasten any animal within any street, alley, sidewalk, right-of-way, or other public place within the county or in such manner that the animal has access to any portion of any street, alley, sidewalk or other public place.
(5) Every female dog and cat in heat shall be confined in a building or other enclosure in such a manner that such female dog or cat cannot come into contact with an intact male of the same species except for planned breeding.
(6) Every animal shall be restrained and controlled so as to prevent it from causing property damage, harassing pedestrians or bicyclists, molesting passersby, chasing vehicles, or attacking persons or other animals.
(7) Exception: Section 10-11(a)(2)b. shall not apply to the areas contained within the Sweat Mountain Dog Park or within any other county or city dog park designated as such by the applicable governing authority, provided that all other rules, regulations and ordinances connected to the use of that area are followed. All owners must possess the ability to restrain their dog(s) and must be present in the off-leash area of said park with any dog(s) they brought into the park, to adequately control or restrain them if needed, so as to prevent injury to other people or dogs in the off-leash area.
(b) Control of attacking or biting animal, vicious animals, potentially dangerous dogs and dangerous dogs.
(1) The above provisions concerning general control and contained in subsection (a) of this section are applicable to attacking or biting animals, vicious animals and dangerous dogs and potentially dangerous dogs.
(2) When upon the premises of the owner, attacking or biting animals, vicious animals, potentially dangerous dogs and dangerous dogs shall be kept indoors or in a proper enclosure as defined by this chapter. Permanent or temporary tethering as a means of enclosure is not permissible.
(3) The owner of a dangerous dog shall not permit the dog to be outside of a proper enclosure unless the dog is muzzled in a manner that will prevent it from biting any person. The dog must be restrained by a substantial chain or leash not more than six feet in length and under the physical control of a person who possesses the ability to restrain the dog.
(4) The owner of a potentially dangerous dog, vicious animal or attacking or biting animal shall not permit the dog or animal to be outside a proper enclosure unless the dog or animal is restrained by a substantial chain or leash not more than six feet in length and is under the physical restraint of a person who possesses the ability to restrain the dog or animal.
(c) In any prosecution under this Code section, any animal found running at large may be held by CCAC as evidence of a violation of this Code section. Such holding is at the discretion of the prosecuting attorney, and the animal may be released at the conclusion of the prosecution.
(d) In lieu of paying a fine or serving jail time under this section, a violator may, at the discretion of the judge, relinquish the animal to CCAC for placement or disposal as determined by CCAC.
Violation of this ordinance is tantamount to negligence (or negligence per se in legal terms) and would subject the guilty owner of the seven (Yes, 7) pit bulls to a civil suit for all damages allowed under the law as a result of the seven pit bulls attacks.
Robert J. Fleming is a partner in the law firm of Katz Wright Fleming Dodson & Mildenhall, LLC in Atlanta and Decatur, Georgia. He is a personal injury attorney who has been handling wrongful death, dental malpractice, professional negligence, car accidents and dog attack cases for individuals and families who have been injured or died as a result of negligence for over 25 years. He practices in and around the Atlanta, Georgia area including handling lawsuits in Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, Cobb and other counties in Georgia and nearby cities such as Alpharetta, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you or a family member has been seriously injured and would like to discuss your case in complete confidence, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online. We are here to help.